Finally, the Orioles have another outfielder in the outfield.
On Thursday, the club promoted Xavier Avery from Triple-A Norfolk when first baseman Nick Johnson was placed on the disabled list with a strained right wrist.
Avery, who hit .217 in a 15-game stint with the Orioles from May 13 to May 29, was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, batting second and playing left field.
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"You never know what to expect, but I'm very happy to be back and be back playing up here," said Avery, who hit .268 with 18 extra base hits and 16 stolen bases for the Tides. "It's always a surprise [to be called up] in my opinion. You never know what can happen. So, sure it was a surprise, a big surprise."
Avery becomes just the second natural outfielder on the 25-man roster, joining center fielder Adam Jones. With Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez on the disabled list, the Orioles had been using a parade of natural infielders — Ryan Flaherty, Steve Pearce, Chris Davis, Steve Tolleson and Robert Andino — in the outfield.
"That had a lot to do with it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about the decision to promote Avery. "But our guys that we have put out there have done a pretty good job, all things considered."
Jones said he didn't have a problem helping the new left fielders and right fielders get accustomed to the positions, but having the speedy Avery in left certainly makes things easier.
"Having [Avery] back out there allows me to not have to think about covering quite as much ground or [have to] have the tendency to move guys," Jones said. "It gives me a little more leeway … because he covers so much ground. And he understands the positioning a little bit better. And now I can help out a little more in right field."
After his demotion, Avery said he returned to Norfolk to work on specific aspects of his game, including hitting off-speed pitches in fastball counts, something that was a new wrinkle in the majors, where pitchers have more confidence in their abilities.
"Mainly in certain counts [they] were throwing off-speed pitches in hitters' counts, changeups," he said. "So I needed to focus on going the other way more often than I did in the past."
Avery hit .333 in his last 10 games at Norfolk, however, he had just two hits and 10 strikeouts in his last 14 at-bats. A second-round pick in 2008, Avery is a work in progress offensively, but he'll get another invaluable opportunity to play while he is in the majors.
"To some point," Showalter said. "Steve Pearce has done a good job for us and we'll continue to work him in. But I'm not going to have Xavier [sit on the bench]. He'd be a nice speed weapon on the bench to have, too, but I'm going to try to play him as much as he allows me to."
Johnson goes on DL
Johnson, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time this year. Johnson has had multiple surgeries on the wrist, the most recent coming in May 2010.
The injury is currently diagnosed as a "strain," but the team will know more when Johnson undergoes a MRI on Friday morning.
"Very [disappointing]," said Johnson, who was batting .207 with four homers in 38 games. "Try to get it right and hope there's nothing too structurally wrong with it."
Johnson has dealt with the soreness before, but he said he really felt the pain on a swing in Wednesday's second inning — and said if he fails to hit the ball solidly, the pain intensifies.
"It got me on a few swings, and then I'd lose strength in it," Johnson said. "If I square it up I am good, but I got one bullet to use per at-bat. The strength comes back, but it takes too long. We'll see if I can't calm it down."
He said he possibly could get a cortisone shot or two to help alleviate the pain. Showalter said the expectation is Johnson could be ready to come off the DL when he is eligible on July 13, the first day after the All-Star break.
Eveland to start Saturday
Lefty Dana Eveland, who has started just one game this season, will get the call Saturday against the Cleveland Indians. Eveland and Tommy Hunter were considered for the spot start, but Showalter said he wanted to keep Hunter available out of the bullpen in case he was needed in long relief behind lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Brian Matusz.
It's also not a coincidence that Eveland was given the assignment considering the lefty-heavy Indians lineup that had hit an awful .216 against southpaws heading into Thursday night. But Showalter downplayed the importance of that aspect in his decision.
"I wouldn't say large. … It depends on who that left-hander is, too," Showalter said. "And I think the biggest part of it was, with Chen and Matusz pitching, to have a long right-handed guy behind them in Tommy Hunter. Dana wouldn't play behind left-handed starters with their lineup, and I think Tommy can handle that load. I hope we don't have to use him."
Eveland, who is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 11 games, made his only start on May 11, when he allowed five hits, six walks and three earned runs in six innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Around the horn
Veteran lefty Dontrelle Willis, making his first start for Triple-A Norfolk, lasted just 2 2/3 innings. He gave up four earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four batters against Columbus, the Indians' top affiliate. He threw 70 pitches, only 43 for strikes. ... Five players from Double-A Bowie were selected to the Eastern League All-Star Game: outfielder Robbie Widlansky, infielders Jonathan Schoop and Buck Britton and pitchers Zach Clark and Pedro Viola. … Low-A Delmarva infielder Nicky Delmonico, the club's sixth round pick in 2011, was placed on the seven-day DL with a knee injury. He had a MRI taken Thursday and the results will be known Friday.
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